Live Report: Øya Festival 2023

The Oslo event continues to reach fresh heights...

The Scandinavian countries have a profound reputation for their collective efficiency and the way in which they manoeuvre everything they do into high-functioning environments, and Øya Festival is perhaps the epitome of this. The flight into Oslo Gardermoen is potentially one of the most breathtakingly beautiful sights to descend upon, overlooking the hundreds of islands breaking up the lengthy coastline, and is a great setting for what is to come across the course of the week. Despite the lack of the usual summer sunshine, the torrential rain that endured this time round for Øya 2023 at the start of the week could never dampen any spirits with the immense amount of talent set to perform over the coming days. Music for the week begins with live bands across the city, and throughout provides little gems through performances in the Edvard Munch museum from Slowshift and alt-pop star Metteson respectively, or even stripped back acoustic sets in the Oslo fjord islands.

Moving forward to the on-site activity, the festival arena is a short distance away from the centre of Oslo, with the walk through the city allowing those attending to see every aspect and varying quirks the stunning Scandinavian city has to offer. Reflecting the ethos of the multi-cultural city, the festival also plays host to a multitude of different artists from all across the globe, bringing their own equally brilliant style to Toyenparken.

With Wednesday being the first day of music in the park, the occasion was really blown into life with Conducta at the Klubben stage bringing his emphatic garage energy to the Nordic hub of new music. Then heading to Lorde at an empty Amfiet, thinking “where is everyone?”; before being met by a crowd pouring in en masse from the other main stage, yet another testament to how well-organised the festival is. The evening saw Wizkid bringing the Afrobeats as he headlined at the Amfiet, and whilst the Nigerian was vibing out on the main stage, new wave cult heroes, DEVO – who are currently embarking on their farewell tour – were performing to a rampant Sirkus stage. Rocking their flowerpot hats for the last time on Norwegian soil, there were mixed emotions, yet mass appreciation for a band that has been influential to so many. 

As day two began, the festival further displayed their ability to pull in the hottest artists across the world, fresh from his Lollapalooza appearance with Fred Again.., Obongjayar brought his charm, elegance and awe-inspiring stage presence to the Hagen stage, moving like a pure professional born to perform. Continuing on the topic of professionals, what Thursday evening provided was nothing short of spectacular. Pusha T embarked on a journey in classic style, with a raucous set to an extremely active and receptive crowd, leaving the stage chanting “it’s almost dry”, with New Orleans-based Special Interest lead singer, Alli Logout, having played earlier in the day, looking on from the sides in awe of the legendary rapper. Meanwhile, what came next would live long in Øya history as the English responded to the American heavyweight as Blur took to the stage on their comeback tour with a set list spanning the classics from the timeless albums in ‘Parklife’ and ‘13’ to recent hits from ‘The Ballad Of Darren’. 

The festival continued to create history with Caroline Polachek on the Friday, playing her first ever show in Norway, and in traditional fashion exhibited how she is currently easing her way to the title of one of the best modern pop stars. Meanwhile, later in the evening boygenius – with Phoebe Bridgers fresh from her impromptu appearance alongside Christian Lee Hutson in Oslo’s Vulkan Arena concert hall the night before – took to the Vindfruen stage in their iconic-looking suits, as they massively impressed, reeling across their extensive catalogue of grunge-inspired anthems.

It’s easy to get carried away with big names, but along with the established artists across the weekend, there was an array of up-and-coming Norwegian talent at the festival including the likes of ARY, Tigerstate, and LIAR, with the formers synchronised choreography and engaging dance hooks proving utterly infectious. What‘s more, as is tradition the final day is a homage to Norwegian artists of all stature with Bo Milli, who’s set felt a really poignant point in her promising career, and Selvforakt impressing throughout the day, whilst Jonas Benyoub blew the roof off the Sirkus stage, joined by Scandinavian superstars Karpe

The festival was then drawn to a close with Sigrid, who now is arguably Norway’s biggest ever musical asset (apologies a-ha). The Ålesund-born artist, now worldwide superstar, displayed an enthralling performance that left the city of Oslo beaming with pride for what had been a sensational homecoming headlining set. Her latest single ‘The Hype’ hears her sing, “tell me, did you ever love me – honestly did I live up to the hype?”, presumably a song about a former partner, but as for the entirety of Norwegians across the country, those present at Øya, and now globally, the reaction to her set and growing presence proved a resounding yes. She was always worth the hype. 

Boasting an exceptionally diverse line-up, as they always respectfully pride themselves on doing – Øya is a fantastic spectacle, with artists of varying expertise and experience from across the world. The festival is a real testament to the country’s culture and the ever-growing Norwegian music scene. 

Words: Ben Broyd

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